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Snowy Adventures in the Creston Valley's Winter Wonderland

By Brian Lawrence

Fun in the Creston Valley doesn’t stop when the snow starts flying — that just means it’s time to kick into a new gear! Whether your preference is for self-powered or motorized fun, the local mountains and trails are ready for you to hit the ground running — er, snowshoeing or skiing or snowmobiling.

Backcountry Skiiers taking in the view from Cornice Ridge on top of Kootenay Pass .

Easy Winter Recreation for All

The 1.7-kilometre Ka Papa Cedars Trail, about 25 minutes west of Creston on Highway 3 heading towards Kootenay Pass, meanders through a majestic old growth cedar grove, magically lush in the summer, and elegantly peaceful in the winter. The relatively gentle grade makes it an excellent choice for a jaunt on snowshoes. There are several wooden benches along the way, so a thermos of hot chocolate is a must — even if the weather is chilly, you’ll want to stop a moment to contemplate the grand old trees towering overheard.

The many kilometres of flat-topped dikes of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area's Corn Creek Marsh & Summit Creek Areas of are also ideal for snowshoeing, and are incredibly popular for cross-country skiing. Even in the winter you never know what sort of wildlife you might see — perhaps a herd of elk trudging through the snow. However, note the trails are user-maintained, so those on foot should avoid walking through the cross-country ski tracks and use separate snowshoe tracks.

Alternatively if you prefer gliding on the ice, then Duck Lake at the north end of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is the place for you. Renowned for bass fishing in the summer (and winter, too!), it usually freezes solidly enough to safely skate! Bring a shovel and a few warm snacks and enjoy the lake's naturally placid surface while taking in the epic views of the Purcell & Selkirk mountain ranges running down to either edge of the lake.

Kootenay Pass - A Backcountry Ski Paradise

At the peak of Highway 3’s Kootenay Pass to the east, Stagleap Provincial Park offers easy "slack-country" access to several popular backcountry skiing routes.

North of the highway in the Park, the Cornice Ridge area is a half-day tour that is the perfect introduction to skiing Kootenay Pass, and has a day-use warm-up shelter at the main staging area. Farther north experienced backcountry riders will find more complex terrain around Missile Ridge, Camel's Hump and Buzz's Ridge.

Meanwhile the south side of the highway the deactivated Monk Creek Forest Service Road will allow easy touring access to Mount Baldy, Ripple Ridge, and Lightning Strike Ridge areas. For those interested in extending their exploration of the area The Ripple Ridge Cabin Association also operates the Ripple Ridge and Lightning Strike backcountry cabins, which can be booked overnight to provide a base camp for multi-day touring. Finally, a number of qualified backcountry ski guides operate out of the area who would be more than happy to take groups or individuals out.

Sledding For All Ages & Experience Levels

The Creston Valley is also home to some epic sledding, thanks to the Kokanee Country Snowmobile Club, which maintains a few riding areas.

Up Kootenay Pass and just east of Stagleap Park, the very popular Char Creek area starts with a five-kilometre trail along the deactivated logging road, leading to a cozy cabin with a wood stove operated by the snowmobile club. From there, several route await!

Also northwest of Creston, the Topaz Creek area features tonnes of natural drops, jumps, and rolling hills that offer terrain for both beginners and experience sledders to enjoy. To the East of Creston near the hamlet of Kitchen, the Russell Creek area is also great for family riding, connecting to the Birch Creek trail system, a “seemingly endless network”, according to the club’s website.

If you're interested in sledding in the area be sure to contact the club before heading out; membership is required to gain access to the areas — and you’ll definitely want to know when active logging is taking place around Russell Creek!

The Right Stuff for Any Winter Activity

So you're keen to get out and play in the snow, but are short on gear? Summit Cycle and Sports is the place to go. This downtown outdoor gear shop offers snowshoe and ski rentals — plus, they sharpen skates and tune up skis, too!

Finally, If you are need of warm winter clothing like jackets, pants, boots and more for your upcoming adventures pop on over to Elevate Mountain Lifestyles, which provides a wide selection of quality outdoor gear brands that will have you appropriately outfitted for all conditions.

Staying Warm & Active Indoors

The Creston & District Community Complex is a hub year-round, and definitely a haven for folks who prefer to indoor recreation during the winter months. With swimming, skating, curling and a fitness centre all under one roof, who needs to go outside? And the hot tub is definitely the perfect place for a postcard view of the valley’s glorious sunset.

Alternatively if you are looking to keep your body moving pilates, yoga, belly dancing, free dance, and even art classes are on the schedule at Embody Movement Studio, where instructors will ensure you’ll keep fit and limber, ready for a day of snowshoeing — or simply ready to dive back into summer when the snow clears.

For a gentler movement experience the friendly instructors at the Yoga Room also offer both public yoga classes and therapy. Located on Northwest Boulevard, the studio is warm and welcoming, offering just the right balance of relaxation and invigoration.

In From the Cold

After your outdoor adventures you'll probably want to warm up, and a visit to one of the coffee shops in Creston is sure to do the trick! Specialty coffees and tasty treats at Retro Cafe, Buffalo Trails Coffee House and The Fly in the Fibre should be at the top of your list, along with the incredible cinnamon buns at Mountain Barn Bakery.

Or perhaps you need something more substantial after an intensive ride? There are so many great dinner options in Creston, from authentic sushi at Red Fin or Sushi Garden to homestyle fare at Real Food Cafe to tasty pub food at Casey's Community House. The 1898 Burger at Kokanee Pub shouldn't be missed, although I'm definitely a sucker for the Reuben sandwich!

If something on tap suits you best, then a visit to Jimmy's Pub and Wild North Brewing Company will be sure to satisfy. Or a handcrafted cocktail at Frisky Whisky may be more your style!

Recreating Safely in the Winter

With any outdoor activity, particularly those in the backcountry, planning ahead is vital—terrain can be hazardous and weather conditions can change quickly. Always be prepared by reading up on the weather conditions before heading out, referring to any other safety information and bringing the right clothing and gear for the activity.

And of course for those interested in backcountry skiing or snowmobiling you should always come prepared with your avalanche safety gear (beacon, shovel and probe) as well as having previously completed your Avalanche Safety Training (AST) before you begin venturing into the backcountry. Finally, be sure to check out the most recent weather and riding conditions for the area via Avalanche Canada's website.

Just Scratching the Snowy Surface

As always this article just scratches the surface of the winter recreation opportunities you'll find in the Creston Valley. Be sure to check out the Winter Recreation section for further information as well as the rest of our Blog for more inspiration for things to do while you are exploring the Creston Area this winter. Either way, however you decide to play and explore, we're sure your memories of the Creston Valley's winter wonderland will last a lifetime!

Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.

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